The History of Stanley, North Carolina
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Time of The Native Americans and Early Pioneer
Before the influx in the early 1740's of the first pioneers this area
now known as Stanley was a part of a
vast wilderness near the Catawba
River and the South Fork of the
Catawba. The only human inhabitants
of this area of North Carolina at that
time were the native Sioux Indian Nation who called themselves the NIEYE
(real people). Other Indian Nations
referred to them as the KATAPAU, or
the Divided People. The river in this
area was thus named for the Katapan
or Catawba Tribe.
Little is known about these
early people who lived along the
shores of the Catawba River since Native American
history was passed from generation to generation by
word of mouth and a written record was rarely made.
However, the Spanish explorers who came
through the area, Desoto in 1540 and Juan Pardo in
1566-67 recorded their experiences and from this we
discovered that at that time the Catawba Indian people
had an organized type of civilization. The women managed the rearing of children and preparing of food as
well as most of the manual labor which included their
agricultural activities. The men hunted, trapped and
fought in wars with other tribes. Their homes were
gathered together as in towns and were large round
huts made of mud.
Many projectile points, axe heads, and
pottery fragments have been found in
the Stanley area over the years. Possibly a permanent settlement stood where
the town of Stanley is now located.
When the first white men, mostly
traders and hunters, came down the Indian Warriors' Path into North Carolina after 1740 their curiosity was
peaked by the sight of earthen mounds
in the area. They were made by the Native Americans and were probably used
for some spiritual purposes, maybe
burial mounds. Some of those mounds,
in other parts of the state, have been preserved. However, here in the Catawba River area the mounds were
long ago plowed over and the. areas used for farmland.
The Catawbas traded considerably with other
tribes as well as with settlers to the north. For this
reason a trading path called the Occaneechi Trail, was
established from Pennsylvania down along the Catawba
River and on down into the State of Georgia. In 1744 a
treaty was drawn between the white settlers and the
Six Nations of Native Americans which forced the Indian People westward. This action made the Great
Warriors ' Path no longer an Indian Trail. It was slowly
becoming the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road.
Down this trail from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia came the German and Scotch-Irish Immigrants.
Later the English who had settled on the coast of North Carolina almost a century earlier began to migrate
to the Catawba River region.
These early settlers were of diverse backgrounds, bringing to the Carolina backcountry a patchwork
of religious and cultural enclaves.
The newly arrived German Settlers were predominantly Lutheran, while the Scots-Irish were most
always Presbyterian. Though they were of these established denominations very few churches or ministers
were among the early settlements.
The German settlers were some of the first to
venture down the Great Wagon Road. Their first
homes were of rough hewn logs and were later replaced with more permanent ones of wood siding or
brick or stone.
German farmers usually attached their barn to
the house for they valued their farm animals and cared
for them well. A basement was also usually dug into
the earth beneath the house for keeping food cool as
well as for protection against raiding Indians.
Their kitchens were the largest rooms with
huge fire places in which to hang their Dutch ovens for
cooking. Their furniture was all hand made. Candles
were made for light and platters were made of wood
with some plates and spoons of pewter.
The pioneer housewife spun her wool and flax
into a cloth known as linsey woolsey with which she
made all the families clothes.
Many of the Germans were skilled craftsmen
and while in Pennsylvania had become very good furniture makers, as well as expert wagon makers.
Also among these German settlers were skilled
mechanics, shoemakers, gunsmiths, papermakers,
butchers , watchmakers, blacksmiths and ironworkers.
The Scots-Irish were some of the next to settle
in the North Carolina piedmont area. Some were second generation American, descendants of courageous
immigrants a generation or two ago who fled to Ireland
as lowland Presbyterians who had been enticed with
cheap farm land, by England to colonize the area of
Ulster in Ireland. There they became skilled in linen
and woolen manufacture. Because the British Bishops
and the Irish Parliament began putting pressures on
their businesses and religion, their life was made difficult, and their migration began. They first arrived in
this country, probably in Pennsylvania or Maryland,
and settled there for a while and some intermarried
with the German or English people from that region.
Others were newly arrived to the new country who first
landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and immediately
journeyed farther south. In the early years of settlement of North Carolina these Lowland Scots can be
found settling closely together and they seemed to prefer the locations with the rolling hills that resembled
A large number of the early settlers of North
Carolina came as indentured servants. This servitude
came about in various ways, from being indebted in
their old country, to losing their money, belongings
and possibly their family on the voyage to this country.
The laws for indentured servants, whether black or
white, were posted as An Enticement to go to North
Carolina and stated:
"Every Servant at the Expiration of their
service (which is 4 years) are to have the
same quantity of land for him or herself, that
their masters had for bringing over and on
the same condition, also the master is bound
to give them two suits of apparel and a set of
tools to work with when he is out of his
Around 1750 Bishop August Spangenberg,
known as Brother Joseph, led a small group of Moravians from Pennsylvania to choose a building site. In
his journal he told of the rich lands in North Carolina
much frequented by buffalo. The wolves supplied
them with music at night and would not approach people as they did in Germany. He stated that the skins of
panthers and wolves could be sold, that the government paid a bounty often shillings for each one killed.
Bishop Spangenberg also described the Indian
along the Catawba River area as fearsome and dangerous.
Spangenberg painted a poor picture of the
colony of North Carolina and its people in the Catawba
"The inhabitants of North Carolina are of
two kinds. Some have been born in the country, and they bear the climate well but are
lazy, and do not compare with our northern colonists or from England, Scotland or Ireland, etc.
Many of the first comers were brought by poverty, for they were too poor to buy land in Pennsylvania or Jersey,
and yet wished to have land of their own; from these the Colony receives no harm. Others, however, were
refugees from debt, or had deserted wives and children, or had fled to escape punishment for evil
deeds, and thought that here no one would find them, and they could go on in impunity. Whole bands of
horse thieves have moved here, and constantly show their skill in this neighborhood; this has given North
Carolina a very bad name in the adjoining provinces..."
By the time our early settlers arrived in their Conestoga wagons a large majority of the Catawba
Nation had died from warfare, from smallpox and other diseases, or from drunkenness; this vice having been
introduced to them by the first traders. The surviving natives had been forced to gather, by then,
on an area of about 140,000 acres, referred to in those times as the Indian Land.
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